VIA – CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Surfer gets community service for catching Oak Street Beach waves
Despite growing up nowhere near an ocean, Rex Flodstrom fell in love with surfing at an early age on trips to the West Coast. It’s a spiritual experience, pushing the Chicagoan to brave even the punishing snow and ice on Lake Michigan for the thrill of a winter wave.
But a chilly ride last month landed Flodstrom, 40, in trouble with police. He was arrested Jan. 17 near Oak Street Beach on misdemeanor ordinance violations of surfing more than 50 yards from shore, unlawful presence on a closed beach and jeopardizing the safety of others on the beach.
Flodstrom will avoid the bummer of a criminal record after agreeing Thursday to do 20 hours of community service in exchange for prosecutors dropping charges, he said.
“I know my mom would have been upset if it was on my record,” he said at Montrose Beach on Thursday morning, where he and a group of supporters — some of them members of the Surfrider Foundation — gathered after Flodstrom’s court hearing.
In a show of solidarity with Flodstrom, about a half dozen supporters brought their boards and, donning wet suits, trudged through the frosty elements to paddle in a circle out on the lake. There, they floated for a while and then paddled back to shore, their faces red from cold.
“Surfing is not a crime,” said Flodstrom, who did not go on the water Thursday.
“I don’t see why someone shouldn’t be able to enjoy it,” said fellow surfer Amber Plante, 34, from Michigan.
The sport synonymous with the waves of Australia, Hawaii and California was recently legalized in Chicago when the Chicago Park District lifted its ban on surfing in 2009. But that legalization came with caveats: Surfing is allowed at Montrose and 57th Street beaches from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and on those two beaches plus Osterman and Rainbow beaches the rest of the year.
Surfing is not allowed at any time on Oak Street Beach, where Flodstrom was caught. But Flodstrom, an employee of a tea company, said he surfed that area in the past without any problems with police.
“The waves were pretty decent that day,” he recalled of the lure of Oak Street Beach. “I think there’s the potential to pull radical maneuvers there.”
Police waved Flodstrom to the shore at about 5 p.m. that day in January, he said. Flodstrom said he was still in his wet suit when they handcuffed him, confiscated his board, and took him into custody for more than four hours.
A friend and fellow surfer bailed him out…
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